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The pleasures and perils of porn

Feminists across the world divide themselves on the question of porn.

In the US, the sex-positive feminists are pro-porn and the sex-negative feminists are anti-porn. The latter (Catherine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin) have been powerful and have not hesitated to sign up with the rightwing state and legislate on banning porn in the districts of the US. If they had their way, they would ban it everywhere in that miserable, Christian fundamentalist country.

In India, feminists have not engaged with porn as an issue but most of them are quite clearly anti-porn and often dip into sex-negative arguments about it, making, for example, a direct link between cinematic representation of sex (usually most of it across our cinemas is soft porn) and sex crimes (like rape and sexual harassment).

The actuality, as always, is somewhat more complex.

My favourite porn story is about The Story of O, a porn text published in 1954 that caused a scandal and was loved by millions. It was published anonymously and involved a female protagonist willingly submitting herself to brutal anal, vaginal and oral sex and loving it. The sex-negative feminists railed against it and said it could only be written by a man and this is how men saw women and this is how fundamentally dehumanising heterosexual sex is for women and this is how men are and so on.

Today, we know that the writer was a French woman, a petite, bourgeois woman who worked in the publishing industry and these were her fantasies.

This is the central problem with the sex negative feminists and anti-porn folk: they do not respect the idea of women having their own desires and sexual fantasies. They see women as pure victims of voracious men and their colonising and dominating desires. It is a seductive fantasy itself, this idea, and women, oppressed as they are by patriarchy, tend to fall for it hook, line and sinker, no pun intended.

But women do have desires and more and more of them are talking about it and now we have a website like this one where women talk about their desires. But are Indian women still not okay with porn?

My hunch is, yes, they are not.

But let’s start with the men. Men in India watch porn. Compulsively. Good South Indian boys have it on their laptops in a folder deceptively called ‘Venkata Suprabhatam’ or ‘MS Subbalakshmi’ (and that poor women was sexually harassed all her life with bastard men playing footsie with her in AIR’s studios because she was not Brahmin and a singing woman of courtesan origins and now has to suffer this ignominy) and North Indian boys have it in a folder called ‘Bhajans.’ West and East Indian boys have it in hidden, unnamed folders.

As I’ve already said, there is no sex education in this country. Not at home, not in school. So boys learn sex from porn. Porn is a bad teacher of how to have sex. Because most mainstream porn is so bored of itself, it has resorted to the worst exaggerations to make itself interesting to the viewer.

Sex is enjoyable to those doing it. Only a select few enjoy watching it, voyeurs.

So the porn industry tries everything it can to make it entertaining for everyone: drug-induced erections, over-sized, machine-induced penises, silicon-enhanced breasts, military-style banging. And poor Indian boys are not only always going to fall short (literally) but also going to try hard to match this shit.

My Punjabi bisexual ex-boyfriend from my Delhi days got thrown out of the bed and the house by his French girlfriend when he started banging her like a piston gone wrong and was so perplexed when she was annoyed as fuck. I had to teach him how to have sex with a woman (this is what we gay men are reduced to – sigh) and his sex life got better.

And coming to women, I think it should be women who produce and direct porn, whether straight, gay or bi porn. It is what will not only get them to talk about their desires, bring them out in the open but also teach Indian men and themselves what sex really is.

Sex is an intimate act with oneself or two or more vulnerable human bodies and porn rarely seems to remember that. Indians need to produce their own porn and do it well as feminists across the world have done, producing feminist porn. Gay porn is even worse than straight porn and gays are so regressive that they are unlikely to produce interesting porn.

But as long as we have this prudery and sleaziness and stupidity linked to sex, we are unlikely to produce good porn. However, banning it is no solution to anything and being addicted to it must be used to your advantage. By which I mean use the addiction to search for interesting kinds of porn and share it.

My most beautiful memory of porn is a Brazilian ‘gay’ porn video (and, boy, do the Brazilians know how to have sex!) in which a man with a big, fat penis is pounding another but also as he does, he is holding his head, cradling it in the most delicate way. I put gay in scare quotes because it is fairly clear that both men are actually straight and doing it for the moolah and that the man behind the camera is a white US dude cashing in on sexy brown sex.

But none of it mattered.

I spent the entire video mesmerised by the beauty and gentleness of that hand cupping the head of the other man as he pounded him.

By |2019-11-11T11:51:06+00:00November 3rd, 2019|Culture|0 Comments

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